Many lawyers (myself included) have purchased a variety of domain names over the years. Some lawyers or firms want to own every available URL they can find associated with their niche and/or every variation of the firm name, while others felt the dot law domains would be crucial to legal marketing survival. Many are under the mistaken belief that redirecting (or pointing) multiple other domains to a law firm’s primary website is a good idea for search engine optimization (SEO). This is, in fact, an old practice that used to be effective but should now be abandoned. That being said, however, as with all things digital marketing related, the answer isn’t a simple yes or no, so read below to learn more about what can potentially be valuable and what can destroy the search engine credibility you’ve already established.
Multiple digital marketing articles tell us using more than one domain for the same site or law firm will confuse search engines by reducing your domain authority, which communicates important information to Google about who you are, what you do, and how authoritative you are – all of which is used as part of the search engine ranking algorithm. Under this school of thought, using multiple domains will cause your law firm to be less effective in search engines and can lead to brand confusion and/or dilution.
An Important Distinction: Redirecting vs. Resolving
Owning multiple domains is totally okay. Businesses often buy more than one domain to defend against others acquiring them, to own alternative spellings of your law firm name, and/or to track the success of a variety of marketing expenditures. Your law firm may own many domains and that’s just fine, but what matters is what you choose to do with them.
Common methods webmasters use to point multiple domain names to your web server include:
- Domain Mirroring/Masking
- Domain Cloaking
- Domain Alias/URL Alias
- Domain Redirecting
Pointing multiple domains to one website generally means creating a 301 or other type of redirect from the external domains to your own live website. A redirect occurs when typing a web address in the address bar sends a visitor to another website (or URL) different from the one they typed in. Using 301 and/or other types of redirects – if done with technical accuracy – can be helpful and beneficial.
However, having your main law firm domain resolve for all of these external domains is an entirely different process; and having one site answer to multiple domains creates multiple websites with duplicate content, which is absolutely not beneficial for SEO. While you can have multiple domain names, you don’t want them to resolve or be indexed by Google. To prevent that from happening, your developer or webmaster should 301 redirect/point/forward the additional domain to your actual law firm domain.
So – in short – pointing domains is okay in some circumstances but having one domain resolve for multiple sites is detrimental to SEO success.
Evaluating Domain Names
Unless you’re starting a new website (for a new law firm) or changing your domain for branding purposes, do keyword research to find out what people are searching for first. Randomly buying a keyword-filled domain name could be a complete waste of time and money if no one is searching for that keyword phrase.
Not all domain names are created equal – some are fresh and squeaky clean, having never been used at all, and some were used for a long time until a site was no longer needed or wanted but may still retain lasting value. In order to determine the actual value of a domain for purposes of redirecting it, ask yourself:
- Where did these domains come from in the first place?
- Have you always had them (were you the original registrant)?
- Have these domains ever had a website on them or do they currently have content or a live website on them?
If any of the domains have ever been standalone websites (that is, with their own content) or if they were run by people other than you, you are going to need to check on the history of each of the domains, including a detailed historical backlink analysis. If the domains show any indication of past disreputable activities, do not redirect them to an active domain. Furthermore, relevance matters in domain selection. For example, if the content on the external domain you purchased isn’t the same or similar or even relevant to your website content, there’s no value in a redirect. If a firm simply registered a bunch of domains with very slight variations, there isn’t an absolute need or reason to point these at its website. The one exception to this rule is the plural and singular forms of the same URL (e.g. ABClawyer.com and ABClawyers.com).
Legal Marketing Conundrums?
The law firm marketing experts of Stacey E. Burke, P.C. have worked with law firms across the country in a variety of practice areas, geographic markets, and budget ranges. We focus on the digital side of legal marketing, including website design and development, search engine optimization, social media marketing, email marketing, as well as offline business development strategies. If your law firm would like a free phone or Zoom consultation about our services, contact us today for more information.